Political Science

Professor Winston R. Wells
Associate Professor Dane G. Wendell

Political science courses are designed to give students a deep understanding of government and politics, political behavior, and public policy, both in the US and around the world. Students in our courses become experts in American and international political institutions, and they build concrete skills for global citizenship and civic leadership. Our courses prepare students for government service and careers in law, journalism, electoral politics, and teaching.

Students must complete the major or minor in political science with a grade point average of 2.0 or better for courses in the discipline. No student may register for IS 485 with less than a 2.0 GPA in the major. No courses in which a student earns below a ‘C-’ will be counted as meeting major or minor course requirements.

Majors & Programs


PO 101: U.S. Federal Government

A survey of the principles, problems, structure, and functions of the United States federal government including the concept of democracy, the constitution, the federal system, civil and political rights, the party system, public opinion, pressure groups, governmental institutions, and public policies.

PO 150: World Politics

This introductory course explores the ways in which countries and organizations like the United Nations, global corporations, and humanitarian groups interact with each other. How do these actors address global problems like the spread of nuclear weapons, poverty in the developing world, and climate change? Why do wars occur, and how do world leaders try to promote peace? Assumes no prior study of Political Science. 

PO 180: Comparative Politics

Are politics in countries like the United Kingdom, France, China, and Japan as contentious and troubled as those in the United States? Comparative politics is the study of political systems outside of the United States. Why do countries have different types of governments? How do politicians decide which problems and issues to address, and why do citizens in one country behave differently from those in another? This introductory course assumes no prior study of Political Science.

PO 260: Political Psychology

Political psychology is an exploding interdisciplinary field of study dedicated to understanding the psychological underpinnings of political cognition and political behavior. Researchers in this field use the tools of psychologists, behavioral economists, and cognitive scientists to study core questions about politics in novel and exciting new directions. Key questions answered in this course include: How is personality related to politics? Are politicians psychopathic? Are there psychological underpinnings of authoritarianism? Are there intuitive ethics and moral foundations that underlie all societies? Can humans overcome cognitive biases and prejudices in politics? Why are conspiracy theories so hard to combat?

PO 270: Brain, Biology, and Politics

This course explores the biological nature of our political behavior. Are human beings born to be political animals? The project of understanding the political self has always been interdisciplinary, and researchers today are increasingly turning to the biological sciences to seek better understanding of political cognition. This seminar begins with discussions of human beings as evolutionary political animals, and then proceeds into a deep investigation of how evolutionary theory, psychophysiology, genetics, and cognitive neuroscience contribute to our understanding of politics today.

PO 275: Campaigns and Elections

A study of the nature of parties; the history, organization, and government of the American party system; suffrage and elections; political socialization and behavior; primaries and conventions; campaign techniques and finance; pressure groups.

PO 280: Authoritarianism and Democracy in China and Japan

This course explores the history and politics of China and Japan since the middle of the 19th century, with a comparative focus on the remarkable political and economic experiences of both countries. Current domestic and international issues in the region are examined as well.

PO 347: The Presidency and Congress

A study of the basic institutional components of the Presidency and the Congress and the interrelationships between these two branches of government.

PO 369: Political Behavior

Political behavior is the study of how people think and act politically. This course deeply investigates several important questions about people and politics: Is the mass public hopelessly divided by politics? Are American citizens knowledgeable about politics? Should we trust American citizens to elect good officials? Can misinformation hurt our democracy? In what ways do men and women operate differently in politics, as both voters and policy makers?

PO 379: Constitutional Law

This course examines governmental foundations as well as individual rights and freedoms. Students will study the plain language of the U.S. Constitution, the evils that it sought to remedy, Supreme Court decisions applying that text to situations unimagined by its drafters, and current events. The subjects explored in this course include: Judicial review, methods of interpretation, incorporation, the Bill of Rights, Terry stops, interrogation, custody, warrants, search and seizure, plain view, the exclusionary rule, arrest, right to counsel, Miranda, Massiah, lineups, photographic identification, grand juries, indictment, information, initial appearance, bail, preliminary hearing, probable cause, arraignment, discovery, the prosecutor's duty to disclose exculpatory evidence, the right to a speedy trial, the right to trial by jury, pretrial conferences, motions in limine, the confrontation clause, voir dire, and conditions of confinement. Students will learn how the Constitution impacts all Americans, from the artist to the anarchist, and the preacher to the police officer. This course requires extensive reading, analysis, classroom participation, and an oral presentation.

PO 383: Third World Politics

This course examines the nature of politics in the developing world. Topics include the political legacies of colonialism and the contemporary spread of democracy and open markets throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

PO 387: American Foreign Policy

An analysis of American attitudes toward international problems, the process of foreign policy making, and the content of U.S. policy. Particular attention is focused on current issues.

PO 388: International Political Economy

A study of the interactions between states and markets in the international arena. Topics explored include the politics of international trade, the political regulation of international financial flows, and relations between developed and developing countries.

PO 485: Senior Seminar

A capstone seminar bringing together all graduating majors to examine major themes in our discipline. Students will examine classic and current scholarship in the discipline that will lead to writing a senior essay and its formal presentation.